Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas, baptism, and so much more!

Wow, so much has happened. On the 20th, we went to Beth Shemesh and talked about the Samson story. I showed my family and the Chappell’s some excavations they haven’t seen before, and we explored a huge cistern I have never seen before. Then we went to Azekah, where we explored the excavation dump and found a few stones I think were probably sling stones from the Assyrian siege of Azekah. We had a great time at the site and reviewed the David and Goliath story once again. From there we went down to the Elah Valley, and slung stones and had a great time. Then we went over the rest of the David and Goliath story, and I think it really came to life for them.

We hurried back in time for Julianne to go with the Smiths and pick up BJ from the airport. I took the Chappells out to the Western Wall and they enjoyed seeing that place. Julianne and BJ beat us back by a little ways. It was fun to get him back and visit with him. He was tired out of his mind. It was good to see him again. He really just wanted to go to sleep, so we let him.

The next day we got up pretty early and went to the Dome of the Rock. It is always an incredible place to go. A Jewish group came up there while we were there, and the folks up on top did a lot of chanting of Allah Akbar (God is Great) for quite a while. It was a bit tense, but not too terrible. Then we went down into the Old City and did a few fun things and then the Chappells left for Tel Aviv to get their visas for Jordan. We took BJ around to various places in the Old City and let him choose where we would go. It was fun to see him enjoying being at these places again.

The next morning we left for Galilee. The Fellows came with us because it was also a seminary field trip. Our first stop was Bet Sha’an. I think everyone had a really good time going through the ruins there, and I think I was also able to give them a good feel for the geography of the place and why it was so important and so on. It was fun to see my kids teach the Chappell kids a bit. It is fun to see what they remember. Jacob wanted to take them to see the ancient toilets. Kaleb was able to point out which stones were restoration stones and which were truly ancient. They all knew something about the place. It makes me happy.

From there we went to Ein Harod, a place I have never been before. This is the spring where Gideon had his men drink from the water and the way they drank whittled them down to just 300 men. We re-enacted the story there, and even had little pots for them to break as they shouted and broke the pots. Sitting in that spot and being able to point out the various places where these things happened really made the story come to life. Everyone had a great time, and I think everyone will always remember it. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough. We also went over the story of the death of Saul and Johnathan a little more, adding it to what we had already gone over at Bet Sha’an. What fun!

Our Family drinking from the spring at Ein Harod just like Gideon's army

The Youth with their pots to break at Ein Harod as we reenacted the Gideon story

Then we went to Megiddo. That place is huge and can become a time sucker, and kids can get bored and become very done with it very quickly. We determined to just do it quickly. I think I gave them some real highlights but did not take too long, and in the end I felt like it went spectacularly well. I was really, really happy with it. I think everyone liked the site and learned.

The whole group fighting in the gates of Megiddo
From there we went to Mount Tabor. We went over the Deborah and Barak story, and I think it made more sense to them and made things come to life for them. We also went over the Mount of Transfiguration, which is always wonderful.

We saw a fox at Mount Tabor

We enjoyed worshiping in the church at Mount Tabor
From there we hurried to Nazareth. We got there not too long before it was going to close. A big group was in doing mass, so we went to other parts of the church and had some wonderful moments talking about Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Then we were able to get into the main part of the church as the mass ended. All in all, I think we had a nice time. 

All the girls of the group in front of the statue of Mary at the Church of the Annunciation
The Fellows left and we hurried on to Tiberias.

We got to the church building, where the Hopkins welcomed us. They had an incredible meal waiting for us, and we had a delightful time visiting with them. They were amazing hosts, and made us feel so loved and welcomed. They are such wonderful people. We had a great night with them, and snuggled in, and all slept well.

Julianne woke me up to watch the sun rise the next morning. It was very nice. Then we got all ready and went to Magdala. It was the first time for any of them to be there except Jacob and Sabrina and I. It is so touching to be in a synagogue where I am sure Jesus taught. It is so wonderful to picture the things he did there. I am so grateful for the ministry of our Savior. We are all so blessed by it!

My family at the synagoge at Magdala
Then went to meet our little boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was a little boat that could just barely fit us all in. It has an electronic motor, which made it quiet. They let Jacob steer, and most people were able to put their feet in the water as we went (Jacob and Sabrina weren’t tall enough). Kaleb cast a line in and was fishing. Oddly enough, he caught a seagull. We were able to get the hook out of the gull’s beak without hurting it, and it took off and was fine. We went over stories from the Sea of Galilee together. Wayne taught us about the calming of the waters. He talked about the need to leave the shore, but the inherent dangers in leaving the shore, and compared that to our need to leave God and come here, but the obstacles we encounter here. Then he tied it all together in pointing out our need to have Christ in our boat as we move along, because only he can guarantee that we won’t capsize. It was a great teaching moment. We sang and had some touching times, and then some more fun times. The person who was with us on the boat was incredible, and I really appreciate him. Doing this little boat is the perfect way to go.

The little boat we were on at Galilee
The group with their feet in the water

When we accidentally caught a seagull

The seagull was okay and we let him go
From there we went to the Mount of Beatitudes, and had a nice time there picturing how much Christ loves us and how he teaches us how to return to him. Then we went to Tabgha, but it was closed as they prepared for Christmas. Instead we went to their guesthouse and had a great lunch. It is a wonderful, quaint little place that I would love to stay at some time. Then we went to Saint Peter’s Primacy and had a delightful time talking about the Savior’s visit with Peter after his resurrection. Again it is wonderful to see how the stories come to life for our kids. The scriptures are so real and so powerful.

lunch at the Tabgha Guesthouse
Then we went to Capernaum. On our way in we stopped at the Bay of Parables. There we had a perfect little baptismal service for Jacob. We cleaned the beach a little and took some pictures. Then we sang, and Julianne gave the perfect talk on baptism and the Holy Ghost. She tied together all the things we had done that day and tied them into baptism in a perfect. She talked about how we had been following in Jesus’ path that day, and talked about some of the things we had learned, and then pointed out that Jacob was literally and spiritually and symbolically following Jesus’ path all the more by being baptized. He was being baptized in a place I am sure the Savior and his Apostles performed baptisms. As she spoke about the Holy Ghost a little sparrow flitted around behind her. It was peaceful and it was perfect and I will never forget it.

Then BJ and Jacob walked into the water (they said it was a bit cold). They did not have to go out very far to be deep enough. Wayne and I were able to see and hear perfectly from the water’s edge, and I think everyone had a good view. BJ performed the baptism perfectly, and Jacob did it just right too. I am so proud of him. He has entered into a covenant to serve God, and I think he really understands it. I think he really wants to serve God, and loves God, and knows what he is doing. I am so proud of him and so happy for him. It was a wonderful moment.

Jacob and BJ just before Jacob's baptism, next to Capernaum

Our family just before Jacob's baptism at the Bay of Parables

Jacob and BJ walking out into the Sea of Galilee for Jacob's baptism

Jacob and BJ hugging after the baptism

Sabrina taking care of cold Jacob after his baptism
We let BJ and Jacob change, and then we went into Capernaum. I love Capernaum!!! There we went over the Bread of Life Sermon. Then we went to Peter’s house and talked about the Savior spending so much time in Capernaum and how I am so grateful that Peter loved and provided for Christ as he did. It is so touching to be where he spent so much time. I love it, and I think everyone felt it. Then we walked through some of the miracles that happened in Capernaum, using Matthew 9 for our guide. It is incredible to think about what the Savior did! I think we were all moved by the scriptural account. I am so grateful for the life of Christ, for the scriptures that bear witness of it, and for the places that bear witness of him.

We went around to the shoreside of Capernaum. There we spoke of a few stories that happened there, such as of calling the Apostles to be fishers of men, or of the fish with the coin in its mouth. And Jacob saw a place under a tree that seemed to him to be the right place for his confirmation. So we gathered under a tree at Capernaum, the Savior’s city as Matthew put it, and we sang a song and I spoke a little bit about the Holy Ghost, and we confirmed Jacob a member of the church and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost. He was promised that God had many things in store for him, and that much of it depended on his listening to the promptings of the Spirit. He was told that these promptings would come, and that the more he acted on them the more they would come, and the more he would recognize them, and the more guided his life would be, and the more joy he would have. It was a wonderful blessing, and he is a wonderful boy who will bless the lives of so many people. It was a supernal time at Capernaum for us. Then we went home, after two of the most incredible days anyone could ever ask for.

Jacob and BJ and I just after confirming Jacob
The next day was Christmas Eve. We got up, got ready, the Allreds joined us, and we drove to the border crossing and then walked through to Bethlehem. The place was clean and fairly empty. We walked quite a ways and then we ran into the parade. It had started earlier than we had been told. But we ended up in a decent place to watch it (though there were some parts we didn’t see). We just rolled with the punches and had a great time watching, eating lunch, etc.

Watching the Bethlehem Christmas Eve Parade
Then we walked to Manger Square. There was hardly anyone in the Church of the Nativity, so I took the Chappells there. Then we split up and did some shopping. Finally we walked the couple miles back out of Bethlehem. The kids complained about the walking a bit, but I think it is great to walk in Bethlehem the same way Joseph and Mary would have so many years ago. It made Christmas Eve more meaningful for me.

We drove to our Shepherd’s Field, where we have the perfect view of Bethlehem. A shepherd was taking his sheep through as we came in. We went to the sheepfold, then down to look at the watchtowers, then sat down and sang Christmas hymns and read the story together. It grew dark and we saw stars and could see over into Bethlehem by the light of an amazing full moon. It was perfect. You could not ask for a more perfect Christmas Eve.

A shepherd at Sheperd's field

Singing Christmas hymns at Shepherd's Field on Christmas Eve

When we got back we all got together, including the Joneses, and we had a nice dinner. Then our kids got their Christmas Pajamas, and we sent them to bed, and did our Christmas things, and it was a great day. I was able to think of the birth of Christ so much today. I am so grateful!

Christmas morning the kids slept in longer than I thought they would. We got all the Muhlestein and Chappell kids together and went and had a delightful Christmas morning. The kids were so wonderful. They made so many of their gifts, and I am amazed at the creativity and work that went into it. We also made a great breakfast together. What a delightful time.

Christmas morning

The kids loves what they got from each other.

Then we went to the City of David. There we went over the history of the place, and in the spot where it would have happened we read the Immanuel prophecy, which was perfect on a Christmas day. We had a wonderful time doing Hezekiah’s tunnel. We had a wonderful time doing the Pool of Siloam. Then I came home with my kids while Julianne took the Chappells to do some more in the Old City. That evening we met with the Allreds and Fellows, and we all went to see the new Star Wars movie together. It was very fun. I made sure to spend a little time tonight thinking of the gift of Christ. It was a nice day.

Church the next day was great. We had a sacrament meeting that consisted of just various people talking about hymns that touched them and then singing those hymns. It was a wonderful way to worship. Later that day I went with the Chappells (and BJ and Tashara, who I was delighted chose to come with us) to Gethsemane, where I think we were really able to think about how Christ suffered for our sins. Then we went up to the Upper Room and had some great moments talking about the washing of the feet, the institution of the Sacrament, and the wonderful teachings that happened there. Then we went to Saint Peter in Gallicantu, where we talked about the trial of Christ before the Sanhedrin, and spent even more time talking about the atonement. I was touched, again, thinking about it. I am amazed at what he did and the power of it in our lives. Then we went to look at the stairs the Savior walked up and down as he went to and from Gethsemane. That is always moving as well. From there we went to the Garden Tomb, which is such a wonderful place as well. In all these places the Spirit bears witness of the reality of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. It is real! It saves us!

There was some unrest in the Old City, and it spread a little. Security told us we could not go to Jericho the next day, which was our planned field trip. Ah well. So my family stayed and played and did go karts. I took the Chappells to Wadi Qelt, where we did the story of Elijah and the Good Samaritan. Then we went to Qumran and talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then we went to Ein Gedi and did the beautiful hike, went over some of the David story and some of the Book of Mormon story. The scriptures are so real! Then we swam in the Dead Sea. It was a fun, filled day.

The next day we got up early and the adults went to the Holy Sepulchre. That is always a meaningful place. Any further opportunity to think about the reality and power of the death and resurrection of our Savior, our God, is momentous and wonderful. From there we also went to the Church of the Flagellation, and to Saint Anne’s where we met with Father Peter again, did some wonderful singing, and viewed the Pool of Bethesda. On the whole it was a great time.
We rushed home and we all got ready and then went to our dune buggy appointment. We were able to drive dune buggies in rough terrain throughout some of the Judean Hillside. We went along Emek Ephraim and through some of the Aminadav forest. It was a ton of fun, and at the same time we got a real feel for the Judean Countryside as well. It was an intense, memorable experience. I am so glad we did it!

Sabrina and Eliza with the guide

BJ and Jacob in their dune buggy

Alexia and I in our dune buggy

driving past Emek Ephraim
That evening we spent much of the evening at Omars, buying olive wood stuff. Not much fun, but it is okay. Omar is always good to us. Then the Chappells packed. It is hard to believe the time is already almost over.

The next day we kind of moved back into our apartment as the Chappells got ready to leave. Then we saw them off. We went to a cool museum called the Friends of Zion museum. We also got a whopping parking ticket while there. We thought we had been in an okay spot, but weren’t sure, so after we all got into the museum Julianne ran back out to move it, found a woman about to write a ticket, and couldn’t talk her out of it. Ah well.

We spent the rest of the day working on the house, and then we watched some movies. We are tired, but have so many memories and are so happy. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wonderful hard weeks

We had an amazing experience when we did the Upper Room program for the students. Jeff Chadwick did a spectacular job of explaining the Passover and how the Sacrament came from that. I think the students were really touched, and understood how it all worked much better as a result. We had some nice music, some powerful reading from John’s account of the Last Supper, and some other reasonable speeches. It was a great time.

Part of the decorations Julianne did for the Upper Room experience
The triclinium we set up for our Upper Room experience

On Sunday we worked around the house, we went out with most of the other couples here in the Center to celebrate Phil’s birthday, and we had a great time as a family. We also finished our Hanukkah Celebrations.

Everyone blowing out all 8 Hanukkah candles

Monday was an incredible day. We started by taking the students to Bethany. Of course there we saw Lazarus’ tomb, and we went through the story of Lazarus. We also spoke of Christ being anointed for his death by Mary. 

Me teaching at a crusader press in the church of St. Lazarus

Additionally we went up to the separation wall and spoke of the complex political situation that gave rise to the wall, and how it interacts with the complex politics of today.

Julianne and I at the separation wall

From there we went to Bethphage. This is the traditional site of where Christ began his triumphal entry. And I think we are in the right area, if not the exact right spot. As we spoke of the triumphal entry, I was quite taken by the idea of accepting Christ as our king. I have been listening over and over to a powerful BYU devotional about Christ as the returning king. I spoke about that devotional, and our need to be ready for the return of the king. We sang Hosanna, and Jesus Once of Humble birth. I felt a longing for my king.

a tomb near Bethphage

From there we went to Pater Noster. The church has become a place where people focus on the Our Father prayer, but really it was built to commemorate the ascension of Christ, which traditionally happened at the site where he often met his disciples to teach them. It also has within it a cave where Christ was supposed to have taught the disciples, including the sermon on the signs of the times. So there we met and spoke of being ready for the return of the king, and what we must do to be ready for his coming again. It was a wonderful time.

The cave where tradition holds that Christ taught his apostles
The Pater Noster Church
From there we walked down to Dominus Flevit. David, the keeper of the place, allowed us to come in as the time had come to have closed. He let us stay in and we sang in the church, and had a beautiful, powerful time in there. Then we came out and ate our lunch and talked about how much Christ love Jerusalem and the temple and then we looked out on the place where the temple was and had some wonderful moments there. A nasty kind of man came and kicked us out so he could let his dogs run around the place. It was good that we had spent as much time there as we wanted, because we had to leave.

My class at Dominus Flevit, looking down at the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock
We walked down to the Kidron Valley, next to Gethsemane, and caught the bus. We drove up to Zions gate. We got there as a group was doing a bar mitzvah. They invited us to take part, and we sang and danced with them. We had a great time! 

The Bar Mitzvah we were part of
Then we went to the Dormition Abbey, and gave them some time to have hot chocolate. 

My students having hot chocolate
We went into the chapel and spoke of the symbolism there. Then we went downstairs and looked at all the art that teaches of the wonderful women of scriptures. We honored Mary and other mothers there. We sang and enjoyed ourselves. As we came up, we found Nataly singing in the upper chapel. Apparently someone had asked her to sing, and she had gone up and tried to sing it before we arrived. But we heard her as she was part way through singing “Mary Did You Know?” It was beautiful, so when she had finished we asked her to do it again. She sang so very beautifully. You could tell she was quite caught up in it. So was I. Just as she finished the bells rang. Somehow the whole moment, unscripted, unplanned and unexpected, was so very magical. It was perfect, and memorable, and wonderful.

The cenotaph for Mary in the bottom of the Dormition Abbey
From there we went to the Upper Room. There we also had a very nice time. It was wonderful to talk together again about how Christ wants us to be with Him and the Father, and how much he has done to make it possible.

From there we went to Saint Peter in Gallicantu. We sang, we talked about Christ’s trial before the Sanhedrin. I get feeling so indignant about how he was treated, but so grateful he let it happen. We looked at the stairs that Christ must have walked down and up as he went to and from Gethsemane. That was a moving moment. Then we spoke of Peter denying knowing Christ, and I think we had some marvelous time there. Finally we went home.

It was an exhausting day. So many powerful moments, so many times that we came to understand Christ better and commit ourselves to him. And always the dark cloud of knowing that the students are leaving in just a few days. All in all we were worn out when the day was over.

It just continued the next day. We started out by going to the Orson Hyde garden. There was a company filming there, and we had to work around them a bit. We read from the dedication of the Holy Land by Orson Hyde. The we read of the dedication of the park by President Kimball, where he said that we would dedicate our lies to him. We pondered, sang, and moved on.

We went to Gethsemane. We were able to get into the extra little garden off to the side. We were there by ourselves. We sang, and it was great. Then I taught about the atonement. I felt very guided, and felt that I had never understood it better or been able to teach and explain it better. I felt like my explanation went very well. Then we sang, had a musical number and gave everyone time to write and ponder. I think people really enjoyed it, and it went very well. I was very happy with how it all went.

Here is what I wrote in my journal while there: “Today as I taught about the atonement I felt guided. I felt like I was able to say what needed to be said in the way in the way it needed to be said. I also had moments where I felt like “this is good stuff.” I had to remind myself that it wasn’t me who was doing well. It was God, who was using me. And I am so grateful to be his tool, his servant. I swear my fealty to this great king. I am amazed at all that Christ went through for us. I am so, so grateful. I wish I could appreciate it as much as I should. But I know with all my heart that I have been forgiven by the power of what he did here. I know he can, and has cleansed me, and from time to time sanctified me. I am also so grateful that he can and has cleansed those around me. I know that as I was speaking there were those who were feeling guilty about things and seeking forgiveness. I am so grateful that Christ can cleanse them. We must never forget how there are those who are in need and we don’t’ even know it. We must minister all the time, as Christ did. I love my Father, my Savior, and I am so grateful for them.”

Pondering at Gethsemane

More of my students pondering at Gethsemane
Julianne caught me writing in my journal while in Gethsemane
From there we went down to the Gethsemane Grotto. I have not ever had as good a time with students there as I did today. We went in and saw the place, and there was a very nice priest there. He let us sing. Then he we asked him if we could lift the curtain that covered the niche and see where the beam for the beam and lever oil press was. We spoke of how this was the place where the oil press was that gave its name to the area. Who knows where Christ suffered, but here is an important component to the whole place. We had a great time there.

My students in the Gethsemane Grotto
The niche for the beam press
Then we walked to St. Anne’s. There we found Father Peter, and he let us in as the church was closing. We went into the chapel and he taught us about the place and the White Fathers. He was delightful. We took about twenty minutes to eat lunch, and it was delightful and restful. Then we went into the church and all of the best musical numbers from the semester were performed for us. It was beautiful. Then we sang a bunch of hymns. In the end we sang for 45 minutes, and we loved it. 

Singing in the church of Saint Anne's, where the Pool of Bethesda is

Then we spent just a little time at the Pool of Bethesda, and had just a few wonderful minutes to talk about the miracle that happened there and that Christ will help those who cannot help themselves.

My students at the Pool of Bethesda
From there we went to the Garden Tomb. Again I feel like there was some good guidance as I spoke of the totality of the atonement and the reality of the resurrection. Then some of my students bore their testimony, and we gave everyone time to read, ponder and pray. All in all it was a very nice time. It was another exhausting day, one that was wonderful and powerful and grand and tiring. And it got more that way from there.

My students at the Garden Tomb
We came home and went to an amazing dinner with all of the students. Then we went to a memory night, where Phil, Jeff and I spoke. I think I spoke for too long, and it wasn’t as powerful as I thought it would be. But I hope I made the point I wanted to. I think it was helpful for the students. I will miss them, I love them. I am also sure that they love me and will miss me. In particular I could tell my Old Testament students miss being with me. I miss them too. After our talks we watched a wonderful video that helped us remember the whole semester. It was a delightful stroll down memory lane. Afterwards I helped our kids get to sleep, then I stayed up with my students and we talked and visited for forever. It is hard to see something like this end.

The next day Julianne and I worked on getting the house ready for the Chappells to come and stay. We did all sorts of things. Finally we had dinner, and then went up to see the students as they had dinner. We just visited and had a wonderful time. Then they started to line up to tell us goodbye and thank us and have pictures with us and give us hugs, etc. It was so hard. They cried, I cried. We love each other and we have to say goodbye. I can’t stand to think about how I won’t see them around here anymore. I won’t see them in my classes anymore. I won’t go to cool places anymore. And I won’t be able to see them develop like I have here. It is hard. We cried and goodbye’ed all the way to the bus and put them on and saw them off. It was sad.

We put the kids to bed. They cried themselves to sleep reading the wonderful little cards the students made for them. I was pretty close to crying myself to sleep as well. But there is nothing else we can do, they are gone. We miss them.
The next day we cleaned and went to the kids’ Christmas play. It is so, so, so, absolutely wonderful to go to a school Christmas play where they aren’t afraid of Christmas. They sing about Christ, they testified of him, and they were brilliant. It was a great, wonderful time. Then we got a bit more ready. We went to dinner with the Bransons. They were so wonderful to us, and we had a great time with them. We returned from there just in time for me to take Chadwicks to the airport. It was a nice time visiting with them. Then I dropped them off. I don’t even like to try to imagine at all doing field trips and the program without him. I so enjoy being with him and I hate to see them go. But they are gone.

Friday we spent the day getting ready too. Finally, the Chappells came. It was great to be with them. We showed them around a little, and enjoyed visiting with them, and we had dinner, and got everything set up. Our kids had a great time visiting with them. It was wonderful.

The next day we got up early. I took the Chappell family to Gibeah and we went through the story of Saul, David, and Jonathan. We looked at the geography of the place. I think we had a very nice time.

Then we got back and got all ready for church. As I was just about ready to head up for meetings, I got a note from security that someone upstairs was having a problem and had said that Brother Muhlestein would help them. I went up and found that Jessica was there with her family and a tour group. They just wanted to see some things and learn about it. So I took them around and showed them the place, the garden, the presses, etc. Then I went to my meetings. I was deeply touched by knowing that my students know that when they need something they can call on me for help. I am all the more happy to have been able to come through for them.

Church was very nice. Kaleb gave a good, very Kaleb-sense-of-humor talk. Nancy Chappell read an amazing collection of scriptures about Christ and Christmas. We sang great songs, had another wonderful talk, and I felt so excited about Christ and understanding him. It was great! Afterwards the Chappells had to leave to visit with some friends, and Julianne and I taught primary. It was fun to teach them about Christmas. We also acted out the Nativity Story, and made some little Christmas ornaments. Then we had a little branch potluck, where I was able to visit with so many delightful branch members. Then we watched Miracle on 34th Street as a family. It was a great day!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Only Mostly Dead (Sea)

Sunday morning was quite nice. I spent time with my family, and we had a nice morning. Then Alexia and I went out into the Old City. We met some French speaking students and we went together to St. Anne’s. There we met Father Peter, the head of the White Fathers here who is also over that church. We arranged with him to be able to come there on our last field trip and spend time inside the church when it is closed. It goes so much better if you can do that, and he looks forward to our students spending time there. I think we got it all worked out, and I am very happy with it.

Then Alexia and I went Christmas shopping in the Old City. We bought a hanukkiah (the menorah you use for Hanukkah), and several other presents. We had a good time exploring and looking for things. I really enjoyed being with Alexia, and we had fun together. We capped the day off by buying some mint lemonade and eating a lunch together. Alexia had gotten cold, and we were looking for a place where we could be in the sun. So, we went up onto the roof of the Holy Sepulchre and there we basked in the sun and at the little lunch we had packed. We really enjoyed being with each other there.

We did a lot of cleaning at home, and Julianne took the younger kids to a big party out in town. They had a great time, and she shopped a ton. We are spending a lot of time getting ready for the Chappells to come, and we are excited about it. The shoppers got home quite late, but Julianne had done a ton. In the meantime I had really enjoyed spending time with the older kids. We had a lot of fun together.

The next day was a field trip to the Dead Sea area. It was a wonderful field trip. We went first to Qumran, and had a wonderful time there. I think they had a decent feel for the Dead Sea Scrolls by the time we left, and I hope even a greater appreciation for the scriptures. 

Caves at Ein Gedi. Somewhere in a cave in this canyon David cut off part of Saul's cloak

From there we went to Ein Gedi. I love that place. We went a little ways up and I taught them about David and Saul there in the canyon. Jeff Chadwick taught them about the imagery of Lehi and Nephi leaving Jerusalem and of Lehi’s vision. Then we gave them free time. Julianne and I just sat by the waterfall and enjoyed ourselves. It was so pleasant.

Jeff Chadwick teaching Book of Mormon imagery at Ein Gedi

Jul at the Falls of Ein Gedi

From there we went to Masada. That is such a huge place. I have a love/hate relationship with it. This time I feel like it went pretty well. I feel like they were able to understand what they were seeing, appreciate it a bit, and experience the wow factor that is always a part of Masada. We also taught about the fulfillment of some of the prophecies in Matthew 24. Then they got lots of free time, and I think they enjoyed it. Julianne and I did too.

Me at Ein Gedi
From there we went to swim in the Dead Sea. It was chilly, but still they had a good time. It is always fun to see them all be so surprised about how they float. Of course there were a few who got stuff in their eyes and had some pain as a result. But on the whole, they had a great time!

Ein Bokek and the Dead Sea

Students floating in the Mostly Dead Sea

We got back a bit late, but not terribly so. Then we went to dinner in the cafeteria, and on the whole had a wonderful evening.

Students with mud at the Dead Sea
That night was the beginning of Hanukkah. I had purchased a little Hanukkiah (the kind of menorah used for Hanukkah) yesterday, so tonight we lit the candles and had some doughnuts and started celebrating. Each night we light another candle, sing a little Hanukkah song, and then we have a treat. It is kind of fun!

The next day was my last class with my students. We went through his resurrection, and I felt like things went well. It is always hard to finish a class with these students. They are truly wonderful!

My beloved New Testament Class
 I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up on things. On Wednesday I spent some time catching up on things as well. Then we went with Phil and Jennifer to celebrate his birthday. We went to Gibeah and showed them around there. It is such a powerful place with so many amazing stories associated with it. I love it there, and I think they really enjoyed it too. We decided that we would ask David to put it back on the schedule for field trips. 

A stone from Saul's palace at Gibeah

Julianne and the Allreds at Gibea with the stone from Saul's palace in the foreground

Then we went to two places that we have heard great things about their crepes. One is called Zads, and the other is the Nutella store. They were both good, though we all agreed that Zads is a bit better.

I spent quite a bit of time in the afternoon getting mostly caught up with everything I got behind on while at Galilee. It felt nice to get there.

When we got home we worked with Kaleb and his friends on a school project they are doing, and we just had a nice night all together. The next day I left fairly early to go on a field trip prep with Phil and David. It is always so much fun to go to these places, and we had a couple of great experiences. We had a great experience with the Franciscan monk who takes care of the Church of St. Lazarus. He gave us some books about the place, he taught us about the place, and we just had a great time with him. 

Lazarus' tomb

Depiction of Lazarus being raised in the church at Bethany

We also met a super friendly, helpful person who is the keeper of Dominus Flevit.

View of the Temple Mount from Dominus Flevit

 He is also willing to let us stay there past the closing hour to make our field trip a little easier. I am so grateful for that, the field trip is shaping up.
Part way through I realized that David has changed the order of some things. I can understand why he did it. He didn’t realize that we have, for years, worked out a relationship with the church of St. Anne’s so that we weren’t so crunched for time on that day. He saw how crunched for time you are without that, and rearranged things. Now we are more crunched on the first day of the two day field trips, and we lose the chronological continuity of going to places in the same order that they happened on the last week of the Savior’s life. And since I have re-fixed thins with St. Anne’s, we are not so crunched on that second day. I will have to figure out how to make this work as well as possible. I am sure I can make it almost as good. 

Over the ancient Olive Press on the Mount of Olives

The stairs that lead from the city through the Kidron. Jesus must have walked these stairs when he went to Gethsemene

The church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu, commemorating the Savior's trial before the Sanhedrin and Peter's denial

King David's tomb, which we visited
Julianne has been working so hard to get stuff done and ready around here. She is also working at making it so that we don’t use up many of our allotted miles so that we will have as many as possible for our travels we want to do during the holiday. She has worked her schedule around to go shopping with others, etc., to make it so that we have as many miles as possible left. She is truly amazing.

When we were done with all of that I went to the Albright Institute. We were having pictures of all the different fellows. It was nice to be with people there and visit and enjoy their company. It is especially nice to be there with Jeff. After a while Julianne, David, Kim and Phil came too. We all went in and listened to Jeff’s lecture. He did a great job, and I think he was fairly convincing. It was a very nice time.

Jeff getting ready for his lecture. Julianne, Kim, Phil and I are in the background

We left as soon as we could so that we could get back for a dinner that was honoring Jeff, Kim, and Tana. It was a nice dinner and I thought several times about how grateful I am to be here with Jeff and how fortunate I have been to spend so much time with him here. I am a better teacher for it. I look forward to what I will learn from Andy Skinner, and feel quite fortunate to be able to be with both him and Jeff during this year, but I will certainly deeply miss Jeff.
On Friday I gave my final exam. While the students worked on it I worked on revising a paper I have really needed to get to. It took a lot of work, and I stayed there after the students finished for quite a while. I got the thing done, and feel very good about it. This is a paper on the eyewitnesses of the Joseph Smith Papyri and what they say is the source of the Book of Abraham. It is a very important paper, and I am glad to get it done. I feel very happy about it. It was a real monkey to get off my back.

I went to talk to David about putting Gibeah back on the field trip where it has been for thirty years. I have nothing else I want to say about that.

I spent the rest of the day finishing up things I really needed to finish up, including grading the finals. That evening we went to the student’s Christmas concert. It was great! Then Julianne and I watched a little movie, and finally went to bed.

As always, Sabbath has been wonderful so far. Today for Sabbath School, during the marriage and family class, they had Julianne and I and the Allreds be a panel to whom they asked questions about marriage. It was fun, and I enjoyed it. Afterwards there were so many more people who wanted to ask so many more questions that Bro Allred and I missed priesthood as we stood and answered questions. This is important stuff to them.

Afterwards we set Kaleb apart as the Teacher’s Quorum President. He is a good kid and I am proud of him. We played some games and spent time together as a family. I look forward to going to our Upper Room experience tonight, where we teach the students about the Last Supper. It is always a great experience.
It is hard to believe that one semester is almost over. How fast! What an amazing time!